The poor darling still has her original 1980s brake pads fitted. I suspect that once upon a time they were rubber, and by some peculiar alchemic reaction the rubber has turned to a material harder than titanium. Only the front brakes work, and when they work, they just about throw you off; they are akin to a horse bucking.
I only rode my new mount around our courtyard, and that was enough. I was going to put air in her tyres - hoping that the poor old perished things would actually hold air - and ride her around the block, but one pull on the brake lever, with me almost falling off sideways onto hard pebblecrete, convinced me otherwise.
While she is armed with an ancient Shimano 3 speed shifter, only gears 2 and 3 work. You can't select bottom gear. I suspect the poor thing has had zero maintenance for many years. The brakes alone, which are seriously maladjusted, tell me that.
The ten seconds I spent pedalling in a circle told me a few things about her, though. The first was that the frame is a nice fit. I got onto Petunia first, and circled her around, noting my body and arm position, and how I was sitting. I then mounted little Deathtrap - she will have a proper name at some point - and felt an immediate comfortable difference in my seating and riding position.
I also noticed the difference in quality. Even just standing beside each bike and wheeling them along, Petunia is miles classier; she feels smoother, heavier and more luxurious, although curiously both bikes weigh much the same when I pick them up. Deathtrap feels lighter to push, tinnier, rougher. Mind you she has cheaper components on her, like those unbranded killer brakes.
Here are a few pics of the pair for comparison.
You can see here that Petunia has a much longer frame. And in this one, that the setup is quite different re saddle height etc. (Surprisingly when I got onto Deathtrap the saddle height was just right for me it seems.)
Because Petunia's geometry is quite different, I ride her with the saddle quite high to get the correct stretch for my legs. And finally, a side by side:
Little Deathtrap doesn't look too shabby here with a bit of a gleam on her. Her paint is actually a faded red metallic; the true colour - candy apple reddish - can be seen on the underside of her frame. You can't see in this pic that the mudguards are rusty on the edges.
I think with all new components and new paint - ie a total rebuild as everything is rusty - she will be a little star. She has some very pretty details on close inspection, like this lugs on the front forks:
It's not terribly visible here amidst years of grime but these pretty shapes have been outlined with gold paint - you can see it more on the edges of the lower lugs.
And here, on the back bracket, I like the shapes and curves:
T'other half laughed when I told him I'd nicknamed her Deathtrap, and suggested Venus, for Venus Flytrap, or Belladonna, for deadly nightshade. Given her paint job he jokingly said Gillard as well but I think this bike has too much potential to be named after our annoying, banal Prime Minister.
As I was handing over the magnificent sum of $56 for this bike, I spoke to the woman selling her, Alison. Alison had bought her on eBay not long ago for her mudguards and chainguard, which she wanted to put onto her 10-speed bike. They wouldn't fit, so Deathtrap went back to market. Alison thought it funny that I also wanted those items, but mainly wanted the frame. She was happy to hear I had plans to make the little bike a nice ride.
What I can't believe is that Alison actually rode Deathtrap, or so she told me. "It goes well," she said, "I've ridden it a bit." And survived, clearly. I wonder if she, like me, only rode Deathtrap around her courtyard.